This unpredictable election season has been great for the news networks, and it gave CNN chief Jeff Zucker a lot to crow about today in a Turner Broadcasting meet-and-greet lunch with reporters at the Time Warner Center in Manhattan.
“I’d be surprised if we don’t” go gavel-to-gavel at both the Democratic and GOP conventions this year, he said, adding that this year marks a “big change” in viewer interest of the political election cycle. In addition to attracting a lot more eyeballs, “those who are watching, are watching for a greater period of time,” he said.
Zucker defended the lopsided amount of time CNN has devoted to covering Donald Trump, which it has in common with other news outlets. “He has been the front-runner of the Republican Party since he announced [his campaign for president] last June,” the CNN chief said. What’s more, “he has been much more available than many of the others. … Just because he says ‘yes’ and they don’t, I’m not going to penalize him or CNN.”
Meanwhile, Zucker said his network made three changes to its most recent debate, in order to take the audience “out of the equation,” after previous debates on various networks were marked by heavy audience rambunctiousness. CNN did not light or put a microphone in the audience and informed attendees in advance that they would be escorted out if they shouted or otherwise caused a ruckus, Zucker said.
He defended Megyn Kelly in response to a question about Trump savaging the Fox News Channel anchor/moderator in a Twitter tirade last night. (That seems to have been groundwork-laying for Trump’s announcement this morning he would not show up at FNC’s March 21 GOP debate, which, in turn, led to FNC announcing this morning it had scrubbed the event.)
“Megyn Kelly is a first-rate journalist, and all the folks hwo have done all our debates are first-rate journalists as well,” Zucker answered, adding that candidates should not be allowed to determine who moderates debates.
In January, Trump had similarly attacked Kelly and backed out of FNC’s GOP debate, initially saying it was because she was one of the moderators.
During his Super Tuesday 3 victory-lap news conference last night, Trump called members of the press “disgusting.” But Zucker says he has “the same relationship with him that I have with all the candidates: good and professional.”
As to a December report he was considering a run for mayor of New York, Zucker said that it was mistaken. “I am not considering running” for that office, he said.